Tim Berry is the chairman of Eugene, Ore.-Palo Alto Software, which produces business-planning software. He founded Bplans.com and wrote The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan, published by Entrepreneur Press. Berry is also a co-founder of HavePresence.com, a leader in a local angel-investment group and a judge of international business-plan competitions.
How do I grow a thermoplastic injection mold tooling business in a no-growth domestic manufacturing market?
I want to penetrate the medical device market which is extremely careful about taking risk with high liability with product litigation costs and the FDA. There are about 40 vendors of hot runner systems and a shrinking US plastics market.
The Dip," by Seth Godin. If you're not ready to give up, then start by taking a fresh look at your business. Why is the market shrinking? Or is it that the domestic manufacturers are shrinking because non-U.S. manufacturers are taking over. Why? Lower costs? Better technology? What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. I guess we know threats, given your message... at least you do. This is called SWOT and it helps stimulate strategic thinking. Get your people together and do it as brainstorming. Find out what's not working. Take a fresh look at your market. What's changed? Why? Talk to your customers; not just a poorly conceived survey, but on the phone, one on one, choose a few of your most important customers and talk to them about what they are doing to solve the problems you solve. What else is in the market? What do they want for the future. What's working? Where is the business going? How are people solving the problems that they used to solve with your product. Get inspired. How can you give your potential buyers more value? What can you do better than the competitors?What are the real benefits to the buyers? So what we're talking about is a business plan. Start from the bottom and work up. It's not about the document, it's about the process of discovering what should be the future of your business.